Sunday, December 30, 2007

Where's My Flying Car?

2008?! Here are my resolutions for the year:

Go to the gym at least three times each week.
Lose that last 12 pounds and keep it off.
Get professional headshots made and update acting resume.
Go on at least three auditions a month in an effort to branch out to new acting employment opportunities. My current director-friends are very good to me, but I need to work more often than I do.
Finally leave the continent. I've been all over North America, but no where else as of yet. Chad and I are finally going to Italy together in June -- Amalfi Coast, Rome and Florence as part of a free-form tour group led by a native Italian who now calls Austin home.
Read at least one book each week.
Kick my nasty heroine habit.
Stay off the pole.

Okay, the last two are a joke to see if you're paying attention. My only drug habit is the legal use of Claritin D for breathing. I'm an enthusiastic, but terrible, dancer who keeps my clothes on when I'm in public places.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mystery Callers

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that a woman called and chatted with me for an awkward moment after revealing that she meant to call her new friend also named Jennifer. I never caught the caller's name. Her voice sounded familiar, but I couldn't place the voice, let alone the mystery phone number. She seemed to know me from some theater work or show. I attempted a reverse look up based on her phone number, but all the sites I found expect payment for the information. Boooo... never mind.

Last week I got a mystery voice mail at 2:32 PM on December 18. It was a song from beginning to middle, a love song to be precise. The caller's phone number does not appear on my call log. I tried a Google search of the song's lyrics, since it was not a song or singer that I recognized, but failed to find the song. I'd like to think that the message was left by an old flame who still pines for me, but more likely it was a wrong number, or someone who didn't lock the buttons on their phone and accidentally/coincidentally called me while the song was playing on their car stereo.

I've been with Chad for almost fifteen years. I can say with great confidence that all (three) of my old boyfriends are either dead (long, sad story that has nothing to do with me) or were never that into me anyway. None of them would bother to find me at this late, very much attached, date.

Life is not exciting like the soap operas that I watch, and read the captions for, at the gym. Most days I'm very glad about this fact. Everybody seems to dress-up often on soap operas, and I'm a jeans and t-shirt girl. Plus I'd get bored staring off into the middle-distance dramatically after every conversation.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Santa was good to me. I got the Hitchcock box set of 15 DVDs and the supercute collector's series for the Gilmore Girls. The packaging alone for the Gilmore set is amazing! The DVDs come in a plastic, padded box with a handle like the old Barbie carrying cases. The DVDs are accompanied by two books too: a dictionary of Gilmore references and phrases; and an episode guide. I'll be firmly planted on the couch between trips to the gym and rehearsals* for the next few weeks.

I also got a pop-up Nancy Drew retrospective book full of clues from famous cases. Cute, cute, cute! Speaking of clues, I got the board game CLUE, so come over and play detective, but be forewarned, I'm really good at this game.

Hope Santa was good to you too!

*That audition I mentioned a few weeks ago resulted in a part for a Fronterafest long show. Rehearsals start January 3. Watch this space for show times and venue.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Feliz Nativity

My sister, who is six-and-a-half years younger than me, was the cutest little kid. She was kind of a mischievous monkey. At age two while in day care, she discovered and adopted a little green inchworm on the playground one day. She carried the inchworm around with her all day and gave it a name, probably Sammy-Jo, because that's what she named every bug or critter she kidnapped -- er, I mean, adopted.

Her daycare had fun activities. They went on little field trips around the huge southern church that sponsored/housed her daycare, like the church recreation center that had air hockey and ski-ball. They had art activities. Sometimes they would go to the pool. On this day, they mixed and baked cornbread as a group, learning about how the cornmeal was made. As the cornbread baked and the class waited for their yummy treat, the daycare teacher experienced a disturbance in the force, a sense that something was not quite right. It must have dawned on her as she went down her mental checklist:
count the students √
closed the garage door at home when I left today √
zipper zipped √
buttons buttoned √
set timer for cornbread √
inchworm... Wait, where is the inchworm that she found on the playground?
So the teacher asked my sister where her little inchworm went. I wasn't there to witness the event first hand, but the teacher told us that my sister gave her a sly smile and responded proudly, "In the cornbread."
Ewwwwww. They baked up a new batch and tossed out the one with the inchworm carcass.

Among the thousands of quirky-cute things that little kids can get away with because they're little kids, is the reshaping of family vocabulary. In my family, anytime the golden arches appeared on the horizon, my sister would pop her head up from her car seat and proclaim, "MeMac's! Ambooger, mmmmm, good!" Thus McDonald's became MeMac's in my family's lexicon. At this time of year, I am reminded of the funny names that my little sister and Chad's little brother had for nativity scenes when they were little kids. My sister called nativity scenes the "baby Jesus farm", while Chad's brother said "activity scene". Too precious.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's beginning to...

look a lot like Christmas around our 1952 house.

Who's that under our tree?

It's baby Sonic -- all fifteen pounds of him!

My favorite new ornament this year. A little longhorn, the mascot of the college where Chad and I met.

Got ornaments that don't match the others anymore? Throw them in a bowl to look fancy.

Merry Christmas. Safe travels to those of you visiting friends or family.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blueprint for a Cookie Exchange

I volunteered to host a holiday reunion for my somewhat defunct networking group. Over three years ago my realtor at the time, the lovely & talented Dian Adair, invited me to come to a women's networking group that she and her friend, Lexi, started. The group was called SWANK (short for Smart Women's Association of Networking Knowledge). Never mind the fact that Swank was the name of an old pornographic magazine along the lines of Hustler, we were making the name our own. Dian's friend, Lexi, ended up being an old coworker from my college days who I've always liked and respected, so coincidence worked in my favor to join the group. SWANK went strong with Dian and Lexi at the helm for about two years of monthly meetings. But, members had babies, moved to different cities and were all busy with business of life, and SWANK kind of dissolved. The SWANK alumnae still run into each other from time-to-time at fun social events, but there weren't any SWANK-sanctioned events for over a year.

I really love all the ladies who were part of SWANK, and really wanted to see them together again. It seemed the only way to make this reunion happen was to plan it myself. I set up an Evite and had the invitees vote on whether they wanted to get together for a happy hour out at a restaurant, or have an ornament exchange at my house, or have a cookie exchange at my house. Honestly, I was hoping for the ornament exchange option to win out as I thought it would mean less prep work/baking on my part, but in the end, the cookie exchange won by a landslide. I love to bake. I love hosting parties. The thought of baking four dozen cookies and hosting the party was a bit daunting.

Somehow I got the house cleaned, baked the cookies, set out drinks and snacks and pulled off the 2007 SWANK Cookie Exchange. Guests were asked to bring four-dozen cookies each. I provided printed recipe sheets for the cookies I baked, but spaced-out and forgot to ask guests to do the same. File that under "next time I'll know". I bought big, 1 gallon buckets with a Christmas theme from Container Store for about $2 each for guests to tote home their cookies with wax paper separating each layer. I used red and white Marimekko paper plates and napkins from Crate & Barrel for a festive touch that wasn't overly holiday-themed.

Chad half-joked that since a bunch of girls were coming over, they would probably just look at the food and not really eat much. He was wrong. Here's what I served:
Platter of chopped, raw veggies with cucumber-dill dip
Bowls of mixed nuts/seasonal candies
Platter with a cranberry cheese roulade, hickory cheese roll & crackers

When the first four guests arrived, I asked if they would eat pizza rolls if I ordered some. Oh, yeah. Austin's Pizza to the rescue! Everybody loves the spinach & mushroom pizza rolls. I got a few pepperoni rolls for the meat-eaters. I think I should order two spinach & mushroom pizza rolls per guest for every event I host henceforth, no matter what the theme may be.

Here are photos:


The cookies I made.
Recipe for Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
From Bon Appetit, December 2005

Makes about 18 sandwich cookies.
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

For cookies: Whisk flour, cocoa, salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until well blended. Beat in egg. Add dry ingredients; beat until blended. Refrigerate dough for one hour.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out dough by the level tablespoon full, then roll into smooth balls. Place balls on prepared cookie sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Using bottom of a glass, flatten each ball to 2-inch round. (I found it helpful to dip the bottom of the glass in flour and cocoa to prevent sticking of dough.) Bake until cookies no longer look wet, about 11 minutes. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 drops (or more) red food coloring

For filling: Using electric mixer, beat powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl until well blended. Add peppermint extract and 2 drops food coloring. Beat until light pink and well blended, adding more food coloring by the drop if desired. Spread 2 generous teaspoons of filling evenly over flat side of 1 cookie to edges; top with another cookie, flat side down, pressing gently to adhere.

Place 1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) of crushed candy canes on a plate. Roll edges of each cookie in the crushed candies to adhere to filling. (Candies can be crushed by placing in double-bagged zipper bags and whacking with a mallet or dropping from chest height onto a hard floor.)

Cookie sandwiches can be made ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.

I made (very popular) goodie bags for each of the guests that contained:
Mint Truffle Hershey Kisses - You must try these. Yum!
Candy Cane Hershey Kisses - These are good if you like white chocolate.
Hershey Chocolate Santas - festive
Lip Smackers in various soda flavors - This brand does not test on animals!
Ms. Manicure Blocks that make your nails so pretty and shiny that you don't need polish!
All of the above items were procured from my favorite chain store, Target.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What Would Laura Ingalls Think?

My massage therapist and I were talking about the need in modern society for exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. She quipped that she wondered what Laura Ingalls (of Little House on the Prairie fame) would think if she saw me sweating away on the elliptical machine. How odd it would seem to someone from the 19th century that we modern people have such an abundance of food, and that most of us do little physical labor, that we have to work off calories and build muscles at a gym. I quipped in response that people back then died at much younger ages from malnutrition and from wearing out their bodies due to hard physical labor. I tend to agree with the ancient Roman dude, Andria Terence, with his most excellent quote, "moderation in all things."

Tonight, I wanted to take a long, hot bath with my fancy ginger fizz bath beads. The hot water heater was feeling cantankerous and refused to cooperate, supplying only about eight gallons of hot water before taking a long winter's nap. Hot water heater, your days are numbered. I'm replacing you with a tankless hot water on demand heater mounted outside of our house, just as soon as I can talk Chad into it. City of Austin codes dictate that if your hot water source is inside your house, it must have one devoted closet. So I'm moving the hot water source outside and gaining a coat closet (just as soon as I can talk Chad into it).

Back to my wish for a long, hot bath -- I asked Chad to please boil some large pots of water. I perched on the edge of the tub as he poured those steamy bowls of hot water into the lukewarm water of the bathtub. I tentatively checked the water temperature with my big toe, and as Goldilocks would say, this one was just right. As I soaked in my nice, hot bath, I caught myself thinking that Laura Ingalls would think about this scene of boiling hot water on our gas stove with its visible flames at each burner and lugging large pans of water through the house for a hot bath. She'd probably wonder why technology had not advanced further over the years.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Diaper Butt

Losing weight has been a necessary action with its own rewards. I look better. I feel better. I have more confidence. Boys (a few young ones!) notice me again*. For a while, my clothes fit me better. I've lost 22 pounds since March. I'm noticing a little muscle tone from many trips to the gym. I'm also noticing that my clothes are getting a bit baggy now. My favorite jeans, which are only a few months old, fit me only when fresh out of the dryer now. After about one hour of wearing, I get the dreaded diaper-butt, which occurs when one's pants are saggy-baggy in the booty and appear as if one is wearing a (full) diaper. I'm ordering a size smaller in those favorite jeans later tonight.

I have 12 pounds more to lose before I hit my goal weight/my average college weight. My immediate goal for the holiday season is not to regain any weight and to keep going to the gym despite the delightfully hectic holiday schedule. I'm in a holding pattern until January.

Do not report me to the body dysmorphic police, but I still think I look a little bit heavy. One of my pretty, thin friends grabbed my arm the other night and said, "you look so skinny. It's kinda weirding me out." Thanks, but I don't feel like I'm there just yet.

*Wednesday, I caught a stock-boy at the grocery store checking me out. He chuckled upon realizing he was busted, and told me to have a nice day. He looked about 19-years-old/young. Friday night, I got a free refill of pricey bubbly from a server. When I started to say "thank you", he said "shhhh..." and smiled at me in a semi-lecherous way. Chad witnessed this little exchange and teased me about it. Good thing Chad is not the jealous type.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Prep Style Pusher No More

I've heard my personal style of dressing described by others as: cute, funky, bohemian, retro/vintage and some other not as nice adjectives. I've never been preppy, even when it was stylish in the 80s. I believe I was stuck in my Madonna-wannabe when all the preppy stuff was chic. So why did I work at J.Crew for 2 years? Uhm, the generous employee discount on wardrobe basics? Or was it that Chad and I were poor then and J.Crew was the first place that offered me a job that Christmas season? Maybe the sneer I got from the hipster at Urban Outfitters when I turned in my application also had a little something to do with it.

At J.Crew, whenever we got a shipment of new items, my fellow prepsters and I would marvel at how the items looked the same from season to season and year to year. We had a saying, "SOS" which stood for "Same Old Sh!#". We'd also marvel at how anyone could afford the clothes, or would pay the silly-high prices, without the 50% employee discount. I miss my J.Crew cohorts, but I do not miss those clothes.

I followed a link from jensational's blog to Jezebel that riffed on Brooks Brothers, then found another link mocking the J.Crew holiday book, pretty funny. Check it out.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cavity Creeps and Home Intruders

Thursday I went to my lovely spa-like dentist's office for a check-up. My warm neck wrap and hand/arm massage were a tiny bit marred by the discovery of two small cavities in neighboring teeth. From age eight up until age thirty-one, I didn't have any cavities. Now it seems as though I get two cavities every two years. Remember those Crest toothpaste commercials from the early 1980s with the Cavity Creeps invading Toothopolis? These nasty grey creatures that looked like rocks with humanoid features attacked teeth only to be rebuffed by Crest toothpaste. I brush at least twice a day with a fancy electric toothbrush and toothpaste, and I floss a few times a week, but the Cavity Creeps somehow prevail.

Earlier today I was home while my next-door neighbors' house was robbed. Someone, or some group of people, kicked in the front door, violently tearing out the door frame and landing the door with the locked dead bolt on the floor of my neighbors' living room. I heard the loud thud and thought it was the noise of a big construction truck barreling down the street, hitting a bump. I even looked out the window to try and spot the big truck, but didn't see one. I saw a man slowly getting into the passenger side of a jeep-type-vehicle in front of my neighbors' house. He didn't speed off. He wasn't carrying anything. I think he even saw me looking out and he didn't so much as flinch. I thought nothing more of it. My neighbor said that the thief/thieves took only a desktop computer. They left the TV, radio, VCR and all other valuables. I was shocked at this news. My neighbors have an alarm system with a sign in their yard alerting would-be intruders to the alarm. I never heard an alarm today, but the alarm company did alert my neighbors and the police to the break-in. I feel awful that I didn't understand what was happening when I heard the noise. Maybe by drawing back the curtain and looking out, I made the guy/guys leave before they were done hauling things out? It didn't happen to me or my house, and yet I feel scared. I feel unsafe in my home now. I want an eardrum-bursting-loud alarm system, a large canister of pepper spray in every room and a really big dog whose size and bark relay the message to stay-the-heck-away. (But I want my big dog to actually be happy, nice and well-adjusted, of course.)

You do everything you can to fend off the Cavity Creeps and home invaders, but have to face the sad fact that despite your best efforts, no defense system is completely impervious. If I can sleep tonight, I'll probably dream about Cavity Creeps breaking in to steal my computer.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I performed in one of the Murder Mystery Player shows tonight. I had not done this script for several months, and was nervous about remembering my lines, cues and blocking. I studied my script and prepared as well as I could, but as showtime drew nearer today, I felt more and more like I was going to barf. My stomach hurt as if it was tied in knots.

I tried to distract myself by thinking about other things. I chatted with Chad about whether we want to accept the offer from our mortgage guy to talk about refinancing our mortgage now that interest rates are even lower. I visited the Blue Dog Rescue website and with teary-eyes read all about the sweet dogs and their trials and tribulations that brought them to the rescue group. Warning: these dogs have the sweetest doggy-smiles, so if you follow the link, prepare to have your heart strings plucked. I fielded a phone call from a mystery person who thought she was calling another Jenn, but still have no idea who she was after establishing that I was not the Jenn she intended to call. I watered all the plants inside and outside. I went to Bark-n-Purr to pick up more cat food and a cat toy. I stopped by the bakery to buy a cupcake that I haven't had the stomach to eat yet. I obsessed over the news that several friends with whom I had dinner Sunday night had debilitating tummy trouble over the past few days and wondered if maybe I had a stomach bug and not just pre-show-jitters. My thoughts were spinning around like a twister in my head.

I got to the show on time. Traffic was not a problem. Hair, makeup and costume all looked great. The show went fine. I remembered most, maybe all, of my lines and blocking. The audience paid attention, laughed often and clapped at the end. I got my check. I came home.

Now I have crashed, depleted of my earlier nervous energy. I still feel sick to my stomach. I still have an active tornado warning in my brain due to spinning thoughts.

I need to watch some silly TV. Maybe I should start writing Christmas cards. I should wrap and pack some of these Christmas gifts that are littering the dining room table. I should iron the clothes while I watch TV. I need to finish reading my library book that is due Saturday. What if we get our dog soon and it hates the cats, or the cats band together in mutiny against the dog? I need to buy more limeade before I host the cookie exchange next week, and oh yeah, bake the four dozen cookies to trade. I feel dizzy. Maybe I am going to barf...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

30 Posts in 30 Days = Done!

Thanks to everyone who read even a few of my November blog posts. I successfully posted each day in November. Special thanks to jensational for challenging me to take part in National Blog Posting Month/NaBloPoMo.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I Won!... Again!

The stars are all aligned for me lately! Yesterday I visited just-the-most-awesome-store-ever for the first time -- Craft-o-rama! This hip store on stylish South Congress Avenue carries an edited selection of perfectly pretty fabrics, lots of sewing supplies, knitter's delights, quilter's tools and patterns, original art by locals, handmade jewelry and bags and lots of other cool stuff. Sensory overload hit me in the most blissful way as I selected some fabrics and patterns, and FINALLY signed up for a beginner's quilting class.

I can't wait for the quilting class. I have wanted to learn this for many moons now, but kept missing the classes at another quilting-only store across town. Imagine my delight when I was able to sign up for the cool kids' quilting class at just-the-most-awesome-store-ever yesterday! My class is in a few weeks. I'll post a photo of my quilt wall-hanging after that, but I'll give you a hint: the fabric I bought for it is gorgeous and perfectly matches the big bedroom color scheme of pale-blue, orange and brown.

As I payed a very reasonable price for my class, patterns and fabric delights yesterday, I saw a big jar with little slips of paper in it. A placard by the jar called me to the action of writing down my name and email address to enter a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to just-the-most-awesome-store-ever.

Yep, I gave away the punchline in the title, I won! (Again, after winning that $50 gift certificate to Warm Biscuit earlier this month.) Don't hate me because I'm lucky!

Here are the particulars for Craft-o-rama:
3100 S. Congress #3B
Austin, TX 78704

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bibliophiles Anonymous Unite!

I've mentioned my quest for the complete series of the original 56 Nancy Drew novels -- only the editions published circa 1978 - 1985, which is roughly when I was reading them as a girl. I have not yet mentioned one of my biggest hording secrets though. I own a lot of books I have yet to read. Some were gifts, some I bought and some were trades or loans. I can't stop collecting books. If I stay out of BookPeople, then I'm buying them on Amazon. If I ban myself from Amazon and BookPeople, then I'll buy more books at the airport, at Target or from the shelf by the cash registers at HEB grocery store. Call it an addiction, an affliction or a compulsion. Whatever you label it, it amounts to a lot of books and not enough time to read them.

Last book I finished: Cocktails for Three by Madeiline Wickham

Books I'm currently reading: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, The Velveteen Principles for Women by Toni Raiten-D'Antonio & In the Tenth House by Laura Dietz
Yes, I'm reading three books at once. I should be studying my script for two shows next week, and looking over material for an audition the following week, but I keep rationalizing to myself that I work best under pressure.

Books on the shelf waiting to have their spines cracked like so many bad backs in the chiropractor's waiting room:
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Dry by Augusten Buroughs
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck
The Heidi Chronicles by Wendy Wasserstein
The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey
Until I Find You by John Irving
Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland
The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
The Writer's Legal Guide by Tad Crawford
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Wacky Chicks by Simon Doonan
The Mercy of Thin Air by Robyn Domingue
Barrel Fever by David Sedaris
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
Marley & Me by John Grogan
Four Blondes by Candace Bushnell
The Ruins by Scott Smith
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Scottish Girls About Town by lots of Scottish authors
Finbar's Hotel Devised and Edited by Dermot Bolger
Ladie's Night at Finbar's Hotel Devised and Edited by Dermot Bolger
Water Witches by Chris Bohjalian
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Weekend by Helen Zahavi
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Madeline is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Cat's Pajamas by Ray Bradbury
The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman
The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
Italian the Easy Way by Marcel Danesi, Ph.D.
and LOTS of cookbooks, too many to list.

On my nightstand are the following periodicals:
Texas Monthly - several months' worth
Glamour Magazine, December
Rare Magazine, December
Austin Monthly Home, Winter 2007
Real Simple, December
Austin Chronicle for this week
Wired Magazine - many months' worth
Gourmet, December

I have got to stop amassing books and magazines. Help! If you see me lingering near any purveyor of books, grab my elbow and pull me away. Like so many sailors seduced by the sirens' songs, bookstores have an entrancing, magnetic pull on me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fight Fair

The term "fight fair" seems an oxymoron to me. Odds are that if one or all parties are being fair, then there is no fight. If one or all parties respectfully express differing opinions, then it's hard to work up a to a brawl or harsh verbal sparring. It usually takes one party throwing a verbal or physical punch and another party punching back for the situation to be a fight. Otherwise one might label it an exchange of information or, in the case of one physical punch being thrown, but not reciprocated, assault.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Over the course of a little over a year (April 2006 - June 2007) I worked with Chad to buy our first home and spent six months of hard labor fixing up the place, my dad died suddenly and very unexpectedly at the young-ish age of 58 and my dad's dad died at the ripe old age of 94. To say that it was a rough year makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It was beyond rough.

Before my dad died, I was already feeling mentally, physically, spiritually and financially drained from our house purchase and work. I was exhausted in every sense. After my dad died, I spent a few months alternately on auto-pilot while still working and finishing house projects, and alternately crying on the couch in front of television shows from my childhood -- semi-paralyzed with grief, shock and more exhaustion.

Sometime in late February 2007, I decided to force myself to get a grip on my health. I needed to start taking better care of myself. Think about the safety presentation that the airline attendants give prior to take-off. They all say that should the cabin lose air-pressure, the oxygen masks will fall and that you must put on your own mask before assisting those around you. Metaphorically speaking, I was neglecting my own oxygen mask. I had to remind myself that I'm not much good to anyone else if I'm passed out.

I started exercising regularly again. I started cooking again and eating a much healthier diet. I once heard some self-proclaimed expert on exercise and depression say that "you can't exercise regularly and feel depressed. It just doesn't work." That blanket statement fails to describe every case of depression or ennui, but exercise definitely worked for me.

I also went to a therapist for the first time in my life. I think that by the time I finally got myself in to see the therapist, I was on the mend as far as grieving for my dad went. I saw the therapist four times. Each time, this person just told me how "great" I was doing. I decided if I was doing so "great" then I didn't need to keep paying this person to listen to me re-hash what made me sad months before. Talk therapy wasn't for me, but I think visiting counselors, therapists and psychologists is "great" if they are helping you.

I got a big, scary-looking mole removed from my back. The biopsy proved that it was not cancerous, but knowing it wasn't a danger relieved that worried voice in my head every time I saw it in the mirror, and quieted Chad who kept telling me that the mole was growing and looking different. I have a scar from the procedure in the middle of my back, between my shoulder blades. It's a good thing I'm pretty flexible from practicing hatha yoga or I wouldn't be able to reach that scar to apply Mederma to it twice a day. If your doctor writes a prescription for Vicodin, fill that prescription. I decided I was tough and didn't need such a strong pain-killer. I decided I would just rest and take some extra-strength Tylenol. I sobbed with pain about three days after the minor surgery. I shoulda had that Vicodin!

I went to the dentist after two years of not going. I didn't like my old dentist, who tried to upsell me on every procedure, then acted visibly annoyed when I rebuffed his sales advances. He was like a used-car salesman. I don't need that drama from someone sticking sharp things into my mouth. I love my new dentist. I go to Austin Dental Spa. It really is spa-like. While the dental assistant cleans your teeth and does the initial exam, you get a warm lavender filled pillow under your neck and around your collarbones, then a massage therapist rubs your hands and arms. Aaaaaahhhhh.... I did get the lecture about flossing more, but no upsell!

I finally used all of my accumulated spa gift certificates for many massages. Every massage therapist commented on the severe knots in my neck and shoulders. They also commented on all the bruises I had. One massage therapist asked if she needed to have a word with my husband. (I swear that Chad has never caused any of those bruises!) I was bruising so easily and so badly because I was exhausted and stressed. All of the various massage therapists told me to start taking vitamin C with bioflavonoids and a B complex vitamin. The vitamins are helping, though I only take one of each everyday instead of the two to four of each that the labels advise.

I found a regular massage therapist who does deep muscle work. I know that my crazy network of knots might frustrate other massage practitioners, but Hillary sees them as a challenge. I won't lie, deep muscle massages hurt. Over time though, I've noticed improvement in my neck and shoulders. I have days when I'm aware that they are NOT hurting! That's progress. Regular massages have reduced the incidence of tension headaches for me too. If you can afford to get massages (from a reputable, licensed professional) do it.

I started getting my face sand-blasted once a month. The nice/technical name for the sand-blasting is microdermabrasion. With all the stress I went through, my normally peaches and cream complexion was looking bruised and curdled. I compare the microdermabrasion treatment to exfoliation on steroids. The aesthetician uses a little wand to blow mini-crystals over your skin and then vacuum the crystals and dead skin with pollutants off of your face. I like these treatments, but hate the upsell that comes with them. Behind my protective goggles, I can hear the aesthetcians roll their eyes as they launch into the latest sales pitch for the clinic. They hawk laser hair removal (which in my experience is very painful, expensive and only slightly reduces the amount of hair), photofacials, cellulite-reduction treatments and all manner of lotions and potions. Shhhhh, hush-up and finish the sand-blast already.

Finally, in my need to self-medicate, for self-care and for self-improvement, I started this blog. Initially, the purpose of the blog was to show pictures of the progress that Chad and I made on this old house. I needed to prove to my family that we weren't crazy for buying a fixer-upper. The blog has evolved into an outlet for me to reflect, report and just write. I don't remember a lot of what happened while I was mourning my dad's passing. The blog reminds me that happy things were going on during that time, even if I was sleep-walking through those moments.

In summary, if you ever feel the need to self-medicate, I endorse a healthy diet, regular exercise, a good daily vitamin with C and B-complex, regular dental checkups from a dentist instead of a salesperson, regular massages and to fill that pain-killer prescription after any medical procedure! I'm on the fence about the microdermabrasions.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Baby Kenji & the Turkey

After yesterday's post, Jensational asked if Kenji was the kitty who tried to steal our Thanksgiving turkey one year. Yep, that was her.

Kenji was about three months old and very, very tiny. I have the vet records to prove that she only weighed about four ounces at the time. She was seriously malnourished when we first got her. The vet had the "she might not make it" talk with me. I'm happy to report that she now tips the scales at a healthy eight pounds and six ounces.

Anyway, her first Thanksgiving in our home, she weighed about four ounces. Chad and I cooked our own modest Thanksgiving meal that year in out tiny 1930s apartment. We made a little turkey breast instead of cooking a whole, big turkey for just two people. Chad and I made our plates and prepared to settle onto the living room floor for dinner. (We're fancy that way.) Chad set his plate down in the living room and joined me back in the kitchen to grab a few condiments and silverware. We heard a clatter out in the living room. Chad and I ran back into the living room just in time to watch tiny, baby Kenji dragging a big slice of turkey breast behind the chair in the corner. Chad pulled the chair out from the corner. We watched tiny, baby Kenji kill-shake the turkey. She growled at us like a junkyard guard dog when we tried to take away the turkey that weighed almost as much as she did. To reward her feat of super strength, we gave her a plate with a little bit of baby-bite-sized pieces of the turkey.

Kenji has always been scrappy and stubborn, but also a very affectionate and cuddly lap-cat. She's a little walking paradox who will steal your dinner.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Furry Babies

Here it is, the post you've been awaiting with great anticipation, my cats' nicknames!

Proper name: Marigold
Chad came up with her name after I wanted to name her Pumpkin. Marigold fits her better.
Breed: Persian
Age: 10 people years
Rescued from: a family in Round Rock. She's a city girl like me. The suburban lifestyle just wasn't for her.
Da Bear
Mei-Mei (pronounced May-May & means little sister in some dialect of Chinese.)
Little Golden Bear
Princeth (like Princess with a lisp)
Her Native-American name: Running Dumpling

Proper name: Kenji
We thought she was a boy when we first got her. Kenji means "second son" in Japanese.
Breed: Snowshoe Siamese
Age: 5 people years
Rescued from: a feral cat colony at a car lot when she was just three weeks old. Nobody could find her mom, and she was eating adult cat food.
Native-American name: Growling Princess

Proper name: Sonic
He came into our home with this name due to his super-loud and persistent meowing when he is unhappy with a situation, scared or confused.
Breed: American Short Hair (plain, old tabby cat)
Age: 18 months in people time
Rescued from: a feral cat colony in Travis Heights. Sonic spent some time with a nice lady named Kay from Thundering Paws cat sanctuary. Kay socialized him and got him ready for adoption.
Baby So
Handsome Boy
Fat Little Man
Native-American name: Poops Wherever

Collective nicknames for my cats:
Furry Babies
Cuddle Monkeys
Monkey Cats

I love them all so much! Let's hope they still love Chad and me after we bring a dog home...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Give One. Get One./Simply Give.

My husband mentioned this cool program to me, and I want to pass on the info. As NaBloPoMo drags on, I'm pressed for blog post subjects. I'll spare you a post on all of my cats' delightful nicknames for a day longer.

Through this "give one, get one" program, you can buy a basic laptop computer for $400. You get one laptop for a child in your family, and another laptop is automatically donated to a school or classroom in a developing nation. Genius. Visit for more information. The program runs through December 31 of this year.

You can also simply give by donating $200 for a laptop to be sent to a classroom in a developing nation.

Come back to my blog tomorrow to learn all the fascinating nicknames for my three furry babies (she typed with calculated sarcasm and full knowledge that no one cared).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Walk Like a Barbie Doll

Start humming the chorus of The Bangles' song "Walk Like an Egyptian" to better understand my delightful title.

If you had a Barbie doll growing up, you may remember that her legs didn't bend at the knees. Unless you had that one special-edition Barbie with the weird rubbery knees that you could stretch to something estimating a bend and watch them snap right back to stick-straight. Barbie's hip sockets didn't allow for much movement either.

I'm sore from yesterday's Turkey Trot five mile, somewhat hilly course. My bootie and hip sockets hurt. My knees don't want to bend. I did some chores around the house today with a limited range of motion. Walking up and down the few stair steps to the laundry room was especially ouchy. I'm sure it looked pretty funny too.

I can't imagine having Barbie doll's silly top-heavy proportions, her perpetually arched feet (the better to wear high heels, my dear), and being able to move much on a daily basis. Poor Barbie. Stupid Mattel.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful for Positive Peer Pressure

This morning Chad and I trotted with the other turkeys at the seventeenth annual Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot to benefit Caritas. Chad planned to walk the one mile route. However, I don't think that one measly mile is worth getting out of bed early on a holiday and braving the chilly forty-degree temperature. I signed us up for the five mile trot, and I pressured Chad into jumping into the pack for the five mile route. It was so much fun! There were people pushing strollers and walking/running their canine companions. Chad and I hope to have a dog of our own next year to take to the trot. There were groups of people sitting on their front lawns along the race route cheering on the walkers and runners. One group had big water bowls for the dogs, so thoughtful. Chad and I completed the five miles in a little over an hour. Yeah, no four-minute miles here.

Earlier this week Chad asked me how I feel about not working during the holiday season this year after twenty years of working over the winter holidays. I admit that I have mixed-feelings. I'm so happy about the prospect of enjoying the company of good friends at the Thanksgiving potluck later today without having to run off early to visit pets for other people, without worrying about getting up early tomorrow morning to work a retail job, without making the rounds at the near-empty residence halls like I did back in college. Somehow, it doesn't seem like the holidays if I'm not working. I have fought the temptation/compulsion to apply for a holiday job at the myriad of shops and boutiques around town that are still hiring. Chad kindly reminds me of the mornings that I would put my feet on the floor and wince at the pain from retail days that dragged too long. He reminds me of the daily stories I brought home about mean or crazy people I encountered at the various stores where I worked over the years. (I encountered many nice people too, but tangling with one mean or crazy person can seriously ruin your whole day.) Chad half-jokingly offers to pin a note to my shirt each morning that says, "please call my husband if I ask for a job application," at which point he will talk me down.

I owe Chad some thanks for going the extra four miles for me this morning and for reminding me to take care of myself this year during the holidays after so many years of caring for others. Positive peer pressure can be a very healthy thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Easy, Peasy Outdoor Lights

Chad and I bought our holiday lights at Lowe's tonight. Our trip to Lowe's reminded me to share this other outdoor lighting project before Chad makes like Santa up on the rooftop with the holiday lights.

The Malibu brand outdoor lights and transformer were easy to install. The directions were simple to read and outlined everything needed for the project. I give a whole-hearted endorsement of these Malibu lights. For about $120 we were able to buy twelve pivoting spotlights, 100 feet of outdoor electric cable, the transformer box, a programmable timer and the outlet weather guard needed for this project from Lowe's. We spent a few hours placing the lights, digging a shallow trough for the electrical cable and then fussing with the angle of the spotlights. Easy peasy!

In preparation for this project, Fox Services installed three outdoor electrical outlets on our old house, because there weren't any previously. As always, the Fox electrician did a great job, was polite and quick.

I love that these lights make our house look so fancy. The lights also add security by making the house more visible after dark. Ever since one of our octogenarian neighbors regaled me with the tale of the time a couple of car thieves came to an abrupt stop in the limestone planter on the front of this house during a police chase, I've wanted to add the lights to the front planter. I don't want to be awakened by headlights coming through the front wall. Crazed drivers can no longer claim they didn't see our house!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Obsessed with Home Goods

I watch movies, yes even movies I like, and notice the doors, the tile back splash, the floors, the wall color, furniture and general set decor. I salivate over good bathroom and kitchen hardware I saw in The Upside of Anger. I daydream about American bungalow style, paneled doors I saw in You, Me & Dupree. I pine for crazy, multi-colored, patchwork-style kitchen floors I saw in The Princess Diaries.

I did not love living through the mess, dust and fumes of our home projects for six months with only one weekend's escape at a nice hotel. Lots of cursing, crying and eating fast food plagued me during those six months. Shudder... I did love picking out the paint colors, the hardware, the bathroom tiles & fixtures, the furniture, rugs, ceiling tiles, etc... I enjoyed talking to the nice man from Austin Deck Specialists about different options for our deck. I reveled discussing the possibilities for our new driveway with interlocking paver stone guy, especially when I saw the amazing curb-appeal enhancing results that this one project yielded. I absolutely love our house and the results of all of our hard work and thoughtful decisions.

The only big project left on this house is to replace the sad, sagging fence. I talked to those guys today. Oooooooh, I'm liking this new composite wood material. The saddle color will weather to perfectly match our house.

So why do I still peruse the real estate listings?

Maybe I should study to be an interior decorator, but I fear that I'd get stuck with clients who have forty different names for beige, and I'm violently opposed to beige, Mommie Dearest violently opposed. No wall-to-wall beige ever!

I have enough sense to know that I don't want to get my realtor's license or become a house-flipper in this market.

How do I sublimate this compulsion to redecorate and renovate without driving my sweet husband batty and without sending us into debtor's prison?

Oh, look at the wood paneling in that commercial...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Grief Sneaks Up

My dad passed away over a year ago. I heard an old wives' tale that a person has to survive a year and a day after losing a loved one before truly realizing that life continues despite the loss. I lived through my dad's birthday, my parents' wedding anniversary, Father's Day, all of the major holidays and finally the one year mark of my dad's death. Father's Day was the worst. I loved to buy clothes for my dad. He was a self-professed cheapskate, and a bit proud of the fact. I love a bargain, but I also love good fashion and quality craftsmanship. I wanted to keep my dad looking dapper in clothes and accessories that weren't from WalMart. As Father's Day 2007 approached, I caught myself thinking so many times, "that's a nice shirt/tie/pair of shoes. I want to get that for Dad." Then about four seconds later I'd experience a little jolt and remember that he no longer needed any material possessions, and that the US Postal Service doesn't deliver to Heaven.

As Thanksgiving approaches, one can't help but think of family. As I struggled to complete my course on the elliptical machine at the gym today, I glanced up at one of the TVs mounted on the wall above me and saw a commercial with a happy family sitting down to their Thanksgiving meal. For the first time since January, I cried on the elliptical machine. (My dad died while exercising on his treadmill. Sometimes the gym does not hold happy connections for me.) I soldiered on and finished my workout, crying only for a minute or so.

I made it through that year and a day since my dad's passing. I'm well aware that life continues. But the grief sneaks up on me still.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Shopping for the Cure

I was out of town this year during the Komen Walk for the Cure to benefit breast cancer research. Chad and I usually walk the race route together. I still wanted to support the cause this year despite missing the race, so I bought a few tickets to the Simon Evening of Giving through the Komen Foundation. Of the $10 for each ticket, $7 benefits the charity from which you bought your tickets (in my case, Komen) and $3 benefits the Simon Youth Foundation. One of my Jen-friends and Hillary came with me tonight to shop at Barton Creek Mall after regular mall hours. Many of the stores were offering discounts. I took advantage of 20% off at Yankee Candle and 15% off at the Gap.

Lots of local restaurants were there with free sample-size plates of food. I enjoyed chips and queso from Chuy's, hot chocolate from Norstrom's Ebar, pear with walnut salad and tomato bisque from Nordstrom's Bistro. Hillary and Jen sampled chicken and pasta dishes for Cannoli Joe's, barbecue turkey from The County Line and mushroom with chicken pasta dishes from Buca di Beppo. There were also drawings for door prizes, choirs performing and a few groups of dance classes performing.

Many of the charities participating in the event had tables set up around the common areas of the mall. We all visited the Komen table and bought travel mugs. I visited the American Heart Association table and made a donation in memory of my dad. The most visible charity group by far had to be a table of Austin's finest firefighters selling their hunky calendars. Their table was parked right outside of Victoria's Secret. Was this placement on purpose? If so, was that appropriate?

Overall, this event was so much fun! I'll do it again next year in addition to the Race for the Cure.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Vacationing In Your Mind

There are days when I don't feel like talking. I don't feel like dealing with whatever is on my mind or whatever is in my face demanding attention. I feel like escaping into a book's plot, a brain-candy television show or dreamless sleep. On these days, I keep a low profile. I don't answer the phone, whose ringing is an assault on my ears and psyche. I won't appear on iChat. I don't respond to emails. I don't answer the door. I need the distracted solitude.

Sometimes I accuse Chad of camping up in his Chad head, meaning that he withdraws into himself. Pot, kettle. I vacationed in my own head for quite a while over an eighteen-month period. I needed to deal with things that I would rather not. One might say that I was not myself. I would argue that I was myself, but I didn't have the emotional energy to spare on projecting a sparkly persona.

I think it's okay to cuddle into that cozy couch in the living room of your mind sometimes. It's okay to be quiet and still, boring to be around, if it means you can keep your mental well-being intact. You have to force yourself to surface once in a while, to peek out the curtains onto all the good stuff out there, outside of yourself. Or throw open the front door and defiantly yell, "next?" to the world when you're ready.

Don't send out the change of address cards. Don't hole away permanently like a hermit. Vacation up there in your own head like an invaluable time-share property.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tis the Season

Each year around Thanksgiving it seems that the good movies start rolling out to the theaters. Perhaps it's the looming deadline for Academy Award nominations, the cooling weather, the earlier sunset, the fact that most people have some time off work around the holidays or some synergistic combination of the aforementioned factors. Whatever the reason, movie season is here.

Chad and I both nursed cold/flu symptoms last weekend, but by Wednesday night of this week we were ready for a movie date. We saw Lars and the Real Girl. This was a quiet, quirky movie about a sweet, delusional man and his relationship with a life-size doll. I laughed, cried, sympathised and empathized. It was brilliant. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but if you see this movie, email me so we can discuss.

Here are the other movies I want to see soon in no particular order:
Love in the Time of Cholera
Fred Claus
This Christmas
Dan in Real Life

Here are the current movies I'm not interested in seeing along with a shallow reason:
Beowulf - This looks like video game graphics with dead-eyed actors. Face it, this is The Polar Express for adults.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - I dislike Ethan Hawke and the subject matter sounds gut-wrenchingly heavy.
Lions for Lambs - I dislike Tom Cruise. Save Katie Holmes! Plus I don't need to sit though heavy-handed, spoon-fed moralizing.
Southland Tales - I've read three reviews that say it's awful, which is a shame, because I like the actors in this movie.
Into the Wild - I hate camping and loathe road trips. I'm not keen on watching a whiny, affluent kid get in touch with nature while he hitchhikes.
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium - Have now read a few bad reviews and have a first-hand friend account that this movie is bad. Oh yeah, and I'm not eight-years-old.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Did You Read It?

For many years, I wanted to be in a book club. I miss school and the academic sharing. The thought of reading books and getting together to discuss them and share ideas sounded heavenly. I'd hear friends refer to their book clubs, and I guess I looked too eager, because I'd be informed that their book club was at maximum capacity for members. Fine. Your book club was probably stupid anyway. (But I really wanted to be in a book club.) The first rule of many book clubs seems to be: Book club is full. No newbies.

A few months ago, a darling acquaintance invited me to join her book club. Hurray! Even though the book selection looked like something I would hate, because it was nothing I'd pick out myself, I read the book cover to cover. I liked it. It was The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. I enjoyed the historical fiction, and have always been interested in the House of Tudor. There were a few bodice-ripper scenes that I found tiresome, but it wasn't a huge part of the book. At my first book club meeting, I made myself look kind of silly by actually trying to discuss the book. Apparently, the second rule of many book clubs is: In book clubs, only a few dorks read the book, and no one wastes much time talking about the book.

I attended my second meeting of book club tonight. Only the hostess and I read the book this time, which was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Again, I liked the book. The hostess and I chatted about it for a few minutes. She is the same darling acquaintance who invited me into the book club. She had gone to some trouble planning the snacks to fit a circus theme since the book was about circus life. She served mini corn dogs with fancy mustard, gourmet popcorn, frosted animal cookies, yummy cinnamon cupcakes with chocolate frosting and some other snacks. She had old-fashioned boxes of animal crackers that look like little circus train cars carrying the animals for favors. It was too cute.

I love the book club meetings, because they afford time with friends in the relaxed setting of a member's home. We have great gab-fests. In my short time in the book club, I feel closer to the other women who go. I'm so happy to finally be in a book club, even if it wasn't what I thought it would be. I'm going to tell you the third secret of most book clubs: Book clubs are not actually about books.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Free Glamour Subscription

Update: Tara was the first to comment, so she wins!

Faithful readers or complete strangers, be the first to post a comment that you want a free subscription to Glamour magazine for one year, and I'll sign you up for one. No strings attached. I got an offer to renew my own subscription for a year and to get a free one year subscription for a pal. I love sharing, especially when it's free.

I like Glamour magazine because it is a nice balance of fluffy shopping news, eye-candy fashion, silliness and pithy stories about real women. Glamour does not stalk celebrities, offers real useful advice for staying healthy/exercising and features a few stories each month about women around the world working hard to make a difference. I've used some of the body by Glamour tips during this year's get-healthy kick with good results.

If I know you, just sign your name to your comment. If you're a stranger, leave me an email address so I can get your mailing address. Be sure to put the "at" symbol in your email like this: [at], so that those pesky email programs don't harvest your address.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Won!

File this one under "Lucky". I won a gift certificate to a cute kids' stuff shopping site called Warm Biscuit. Yay! I can't wait to start picking out gifts for the nephews and nieces. With some upcoming baby showers, I know I'll be referring lots of peeps to this cute shop.

The giveaway was sponsored by one of my favorite blogs, Hostess with the Mostess.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Short for the Shorty

What's smaller than a tall? A short. This according to the barrista at Starbucks tonight. I told the barrista I wanted the kid-size hot chocolate. The barrista barked back, "short." I missed the contextual clues, and it took me a blank-faced moment to ponder this information. Yeah, I was wearing flats versus the usual four-inch tall heels, but why was he calling me short? Oh... blink, blink... he means that the kid-size is called "short" in Starbuckese. Chad was standing at the counter with me. He was tickled by the exchange and said, "a short for the shorties. A short for my shorty." Chad was referring to kids as shorties and then to me as his shorty. He's cute that way.

For some reason, Starbucks is trying to keep it a secret that there is a smaller option than the tall size for their beverages. The "short" is not a posted option on the menu, but they have that smaller cup ready to go if you order it. I don't mean to sound all dainty, because I'm not, but at 8:00 PM, I don't need a big coffee drink or a big hot chocolate. I just need a little taste with a mini-jolt of caffeine. Just enough buzz to keep me up until 2:00 AM; not 5:00 AM.

In case you're wondering, I usually order a tall size beverage during daylight hours. I start snipping at people if I get a grande. Seriously, stay outta my way! The only time I order a venti size is when I'm getting iced tea. I could put away three venti iced teas before I get caffeine-cranky. Mmmm... now I want iced tea.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dear Santa,

As soon as Labor Day happened, I saw the Christmas decorations and promotions start at retailers. I don't mean to sound like Scrooge or like a holier-than-thou hypocrite preaching that we've lost the true meaning of the holidays, but I hate seeing Christmas decorations before Halloween.

Reading the newspaper today, I skimmed through all of the bad news about the war, the environment and the United States' economic forecast. I also flipped through the glossy sale ads for stores. I started thinking about what I want to send for Christmas gifts this year to close family and the very few friends with whom I exchange Christmas gifts. I admit that I even thought of a few things I want to receive for Christmas gifts.

Each year during the winter holiday season, I'm tempted to tell people to make charitable donations instead of sending me gifts. I'm also tempted to make charitable gifts in honor of friends rather than buying more lip gloss samplers or gloves to hand out. I don't want to seem like a curmudgeon though. And who am I to decide that you want a charitable gift made in your name to a cause that I like? Likewise, who am I to decide that the charity you like is not one I'm willing to support? Well, as I told my nephew last week, "I'm thirty-five. I'm going to do what I want to now. When you're thirty-five, you can do what you want to do." (Implicit disclaimer: Within reason, don't break any laws or do horribly unethical things like those Enron jerks did.)

I encourage you to donate to the charitable cause of your choosing this year. I've always liked Unicef. Your local food bank is probably a good charity to support. Your local Red Cross and the national Red Cross do a lot of good work too.

I hope that the recipients on my gift list this year like the Unicef donations I'll make in their honor. (Niece and nephews, don't worry, you'll get "real" presents too.)

In the interest of full-disclosure, all charitable bets are off when birthdays roll around. Friends and family will get the usual birthday cards and gifts without the preachy message. It's my opinion that your birthday should be that one delightfully self-aggrandizing/semi-selfish day each year that's all about you.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Giant TV Makes Sparks Fly

For several years, Chad and I resisted the consumer compulsion to buy a huge flat screen TV. Then Chad decided we really, really needed one. If you have the big high-definition TV, then you need to spring for high-definition cable. If you have the high-definition TV and cable, then you need a new DVD player too. With a few sighs and eye-rolls, I let Chad haul our old faithful boxy TV and old DVD/VCR combo machine to Goodwill. No sooner did Chad drop off the donations, than the new TV with all its new accouterments started crashing the cable connection every few minutes and making disconcerting popping noises. We're one of those households that only has one TV. Our one new TV, though super-impressive looking to gadget-geeks, wasn't working right.

Chad scheduled the cable repair-person to come check out the situation. The cable guy said that the TV was the problem. Chad called the customer service phone line for the TV and was told that a repair-person couldn't come out for about two weeks. After a bit of online research, he found an authorized repair shop about a half-hour drive away from our house. (We rarely drive more than ten minutes to get anywhere. We're somewhat conscious of our carbon footprint that way.) Chad loaded the giant TV into his car for a road trip to the shop. The TV repair shop person said that the TV was fine. Chad brought the TV back home with a new cable box and plugged everything back into the outlet. Sparks shot out of the wall outlet, frightening Chad and our three cats. I wasn't home for this spectacle, but got to hear about it later. Chad then tried several other electrical outlets in the living room and by process of elimination, decided that the electrical outlet behind the entertainment console was to blame for the sparks and all of the TV-related problems.

Fox Services to the rescue again! The electrician from Fox Services explained to me that two of our living room plugs weren't wired correctly and thus weren't ground properly. He showed me the wires and started giving me a lesson on electrical engineering and my eyes kinda glazed over. He was very nice, if a bit overly enthusiastic about the history of wiring as it related to our fifty-five-year-old house. The exciting conclusion is that he fixed our electrical outlets. As I type this, Chad is playing The Simpsons Game on the giant TV. If you ask me, seeing the game so giant on the TV makes it look pixelated and funky. I'll admit I do enjoy seeing movies on the big TV, and the flat screen looks a little nicer than the old boxy TV did in our living room.

Friday, November 09, 2007

My Nephew, The Artist

I mentioned a few days ago, that due to technical difficulties involving some really effective wireless internet security, I could not yet upload all the photos of my nephews and niece. What I didn't mention was that I handed my camera over to my seven-year-old nephew, Christopher. It was my old Canon Power Shot, so I wasn't worried about the little dude breaking it. Christopher took some great photos. He's got a natural eye for composition, framing and lighting. I tried to get Christopher a Fisher Price digital camera for kids last year for his birthday, but he said he wanted some crazy Lego set instead. This year, he's getting a camera whether he wants it or not! Nurture that talent.

Mary and I with the Texas tattoos I brought for the kids. Just ask Aunt Jenn when you're ready for your first tattoo! She's happy to help... as long as it's temporary.

Mary in a candid moment.

The Playground Series: Christopher's best work to date, featuring Charlie, the artist's brother, and Chad W., the artist's dad.


An artsy shot. Check out the shadow of the flowers on the wall over Mary's shoulder.

Here's a photo I took of Mary licking the plate clean. Mmmmm... pumpkin cheesecake.

Portrait of an Artist as a Little Dude, by Aunt Jenn (me)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Not Quite Rockin' Out

Chad and I went out to a music show at The Parish club last night. The venue and crowd were too small for me to call it a concert, and the music was more alterna-pop than straight up rock music. It felt weird to be out with the 20-something-year-old kids. As I looked around, I saw some older people too, including one crusty, old dude with a bald spot and greasy, stringy grey hair wearing skin-tight leather pants and a black leather motorcycle jacket. Maybe the guy was friends with the geezers from The Rolling Stones. I also ran into one of my friends who looks my age and acts younger than I do, but who is actually forty-eight. She grabbed my hands, hopped up and down squealing, "the Pipettes! Aren't you excited to see the Pipettes?!" I'll answer that question in a few paragraphs.

The first musical act was a guy named Monster Bobby. Yep, just one guy. He had a keyboard/noisemaker that would play tinny-sounding drum tracks and music box quality melodies with the press of one button. He also had an acoustic guitar that he played along with the synthesizer thing, but slightly out of synch. All of his songs were one minute long. He was awful. Some of us clapped politely between each song, but the audience was glad to see him exit stage right.

The second musical act was Nicole Atkins and her band. Nicole is gorgeous and tiny with a voice that belongs to a much larger, sturdier-looking woman. I love her music. Her songs have a full, swelling sound that couple with her echoing voice to be downright haunting. I have a huge girl-crush on her. She wore a lovely midnight-blue dress that was one part sweet and one part rock-n-roll. She has pretty rocker-chick highlights in her long, dark, perfectly layered hair. Her albums will be playing over and over again on my iPod for weeks to come.

The third musical act/headliner was The Pipettes. Boo... Watching them was like sitting through an off-Broadway musical with a terrible script about a pre-packaged girl group. How is this band so popular? They're like the Spice Girls 2.2, but with just three girls: Purple-Spice, Fuchsia-Spice and Aqua-Spice: all in matching polka dot skirts. Oh, and guess who was in their backing band? That dork, Monster Bobby, from the first act. Thank goodness Chad was ready to leave after five of The Pipettes' songs, which was four songs too many since they all sounded the same.